Reuters 2017 Digital News Report – 7 key takeways

The 2017 Digital News Report, a joint effort between Reuters Institute and the Oxford University, was published last week. It took a glance at the state of the media industry as a whole, by polling 70 000 people from 36 different countries. Let’s look at its main conclusions on digital media:

#1: Mobile is still on the rise

In an environment where mobile platforms keep growing, large news markets such as the USA, the United Kingdom or the Netherlands reached their “tipping point”, where mobile access to news becomes as important as computer-based access. Other countries such as Sweden or Switzerland are already past this threshold, and are now “mobile first”.

#2: More people are willing to pay for online news

The amount of people willing to pay for news in the US nearly doubled last year (from 9 to 16%), and donations to news institutions tripled. The main driver for this evolution was readers’ willingness to “fund journalism”, in a context where quality coverage remains a big driver for new subscriptions.

Digital news payments are also growing in markets, such as Belgium, Switzerland, Australia or the Netherlands. On a global scale, close to half of news payments are made through online subscriptions, which remain the biggest money-maker for digital news publishers.

Interestingly, most of the global interviewees (USA notwithstanding) were under the impression that the news business was thriving and did not need their contributions.

#3: Social media news slowing down

In most markets (including all of mainland Europe), social media use for news is flattening or declining. This can be linked to several factors, such as Facebook’s prioritisation of friends & family news over social media outlet’s content, but also a rising mistrust of social media as a news source: in most countries, they were considered half as reliable as news media.

#4: Voice-controlled assistants, the next big news source?

Very few people already own a voice-controlled assistant (Amazon Echo, Google Home), but half of those who do use it as a news source. Standing between a smartphone and a radio, these devices and their audio news apps could become a major market for publishers.

#5: Ad-blocking not all it was expected to be

Once the greatest fear of on-line publishers, ad-blocking is now slowing down, with a global usage rate of 24%, and a low 7% on mobile platforms.
Another positive note: 43% of ad-blocking users said they were already accepted to disable their ad-block to access news content when prompted to do so

#6: Video is not living up to expectations

Despite many promises of a video-future, 71% of news content is still consumed in text-only format, a number which has remained stable over the past couple of years. Only 9 percent rely on video-only for their mobile news consumption.
Complicated monetisation on social media and a general dislike of features such as autoplay are important drivers of such a low adoption. 

#7: The algorithms are taking over

More than half of news-users are relying on algorithms (search engines, aggregators, social media) to find their news, a figure which increases to almost two-thirds when looking at population aged less than 35.
Interestingly, algorithm-fed content proved to widen the range of sources users access, rather than restrict it. 

Every year, the Digital News Report brings us a fresh view of the publishing industry, and while some trends are slowing down, new ones are emerging elsewhere. And nobody knows what the 2018 report will include. Really, who expected publishing to be a boring job?